NUS Women move left

NUS Women’s Conference (13-15 March) gave the left many reasons to look forward to the year ahead. NCAFC women who were delegates at the conference discuss elections, campaigning and the NUS Women’s Campaign vote to organise a 2012 national demo

Elections

Kelley Temple is an independent left activist and currently Scottish NUS Women’s Officer. She beat the current Women’s Officer and Labour Student, Estelle Hart, by less than 10 votes. It was always going to be close, as Labour Students have a deep foothold in the campaign. (They have had the leadership for over a decade.) But Kelley’s election could signal a revitalisation of the campaign.

The result was achieved by a coming together of disillusioned women on NUS Women’s Committee (much further left than Labour Students generally), collectively organising for the election. NCAFC Women decided to organise for Kelley’s campaign after publicly questioning her about political stances/general activism. Read more here.

NCAFC Women had a good presence at the conference and handed out leaflets for Kelley’s election (this included all the key points that arose from the Q&A). It also had information about the NCAFC Women‘s Charter for Women in Education session at the conference.

In other elections Imogen Martin from Hull is the new Black Students Rep and Emma Kerry from Leeds is on as a job share Disabled Rep.

Campaigning

NCAFC Women are also having an impact more widely: the campaign’s contact details were included in the reference section in last year’s NUS Women’s shiny new “Cuts Briefing”. But political change is by no means a “finished product”; this is where NCAFC Women and other left women’s groups come into the picture.

We should intervene in the campaign as much as we can in the next year to secure it as a national grassroots campaigning organisation. It was fantastic to see lots of education institutions present at the conference. Many Scottish universities and colleges were represented. This is a positive harbinger of things to come; women from across the UK are taking their national campaign back!

A really great opening plenary session reported on lap dancing. It vindicated what socialist feminists say about the sex industry and women workers’ place in it. We need to be uniting with sex workers to secure better working conditions, instead of moralising about them being victims of sexual violence.

Although this was a much debated issue – liberal and radical feminists at conference argued that if we promote unionisation in these industries we are accepting and not challenging the status quo. They can’t see that if sex workers unionise and organise it would be a step toward changing the structures in society which pave the way for the sex industry.

There were a few liberal feminist motions (we need more women bosses, managers, MPs, etc). NCAFC Women spoke against, with a socialist feminist perspective, on these questions. We got claps, but, unfortunately, no motions were voted down at all in the whole conference. The general feeling was one of consensus and inclusiveness. For example, an anti-cuts woman was speaking militantly about fighting cuts but also talking against the position of NCAFC Women, saying we need to be inclusive of all women, even if they are Tories!

Serious left politics is still lacking here but the seeds have definitely been sown.

The conference voted to support:

* A national student demonstration next term

* To work with sex worker organisations, promote unionisation and decriminalisation

* To fight cuts

* To campaign for more women’s representation: a women’s officer in every SU.

There is also still policy standing from last year for free education and living grants for all. Kelley Temple backs all of these policies.

Where now for NCAFC Women building a left in NUS Women’s Campaign?

The year ahead needs to see NCAFC Women helping to build a grassroots left movement in the campaign. There are two campaigns planned to kick start this:

* A campaign to save the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University;

* A campaign around the Charter for Women in Education.

NCAFC Women held a session on the charter with around 20 people attending. Lots of ideas were raised, and good feedback. More information on the NCAFC Women blog.

NCAFC Women look forward to working with the NUS Women’s Campaign in the year ahead. We want to work with other activists to build a left in the campaign and transform it into the fighting student women’s movement we need. Whatever you do, get involved!

Jade Baker, NCAFC Women/NUS Women’s Committee (pc)

***

NUS Women’s Campaign backs the call for a 2012 national demo against fees & cuts ahead of NUS National Conference

Next month (April 2012) up to one thousand student representatives from across the country will meet in Sheffield for the NUS National Conference to decide the next steps for the student movement.
Top of the agenda at this year’s conference will be whether or not the NUS should lead a united, national campaign against cuts, fees and privatisation by organising a first term national demonstration.
Last year the vote for a national demo was extremely close, with anti-cuts students narrowly losing the motion by 15 or so swing vote. Whether or not NUS should organise a national demo this autumn will be a key dividing line at conference.

The NUS Women’s Campaign, which represents millions of women students nationally, has made a decisive intervention, which could swing the vote at the NUS Conference. Delegates at the conference voted for the NUS Women’s Campaign to:

“Actively campaign and lobby for NUS to call a first term national demonstration in 2012 against cuts, fees, high interest on student debts and privatisation, to unite the student movement” and to “Recommend the NUS Women’s Officer and NEC representative to vote in favour of NUS organising a national demo at the forthcoming NUS National Conference.”

The cuts and soaring levels of student debt will disproportionately impact upon women students. It should therefore come as little surprise that the NUS Women’s Campaign is leading the way in calling for NUS to fight back.

Delegates attending the NUS National Conference should seriously take the advice of the NUS Women’s Campaign on board and vote YES to NUS Demonstration 2012!

Fiona Edwards, Birkbeck College/NCAFC Women

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